The traffic lock jam in and around Apapa between 2017 till the time of filling this report has become a big monster that is beyond the control of the Lagos State and the Federal Government. This is because as of the time of this report, neither the Lagos State government nor the Federal Government has been able to proffer a lasting solution to the challenge and the traffic situation in and around the Lagos port is degenerating every day.
While the Apapa gridlock persists, it has created negative ripple effect not only on people in the local government area, but also to all Lagosian and the Nigeria economy at large. Apart from the many productive man hours that are being wasted on the road, goods for import and export suffer irredeemable delay every day, thereby leading to lose of several billions every week.
Besides, the situation has made the cost of hauling goods to be skyrocketed to over 400% if not more. For instance, to move a 40ft by 40ft container within Lagos before according to some truckers usually cost between 100 to 160, 000 but today, the price has gone up. For instance, from Apapa port to Ikeja now goes for about 600,000. Unfortunately, it is the final consumers bear the brunt.
The Lagos State government and the federal government have made several promises and attempt to tackle the traffic menace in and around the port but all to no avail. Today, everyone whose business is in Apapa and environ is groining.
While some are groining silently, some have been crying out. The situation seems to affect the truckers and possibly freight forwarders more than any other set of people. This is largely because as of the time of filling this report, the truckers are lamenting bitterly, calling on the Lagos State and Federal Government to do something for real this time around to salvage the situation.
While sharing their plight recently, the truckers that transact business at the Port stated unequivocally that the remote cause of the gridlock in and around Apapa is the inability of the shipping companies to provide holding bay where their empty container will be delivered. They lamented that the situation has gone worst from what it used to be.
While taking a holistic look at the situation recently at a parley organised by the Maritime Journalist Association of Nigeria (MAJAN) title, “challenge of truck holding bay in maritime sector”, the Vice Chairman, Dry Cargo, Lagos Chapter of the Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Alhaji Abdulahi Inuwa hinges the problem on what he called “lack of political will” of the government to compel the shipping company to have holding bay.
He said “our truck has become the holding bay for the shipping companies. The shipping companies have been told to have holding bay but they have been manipulating their ways. The government is aware of this development but they are not doing anything about it. This is where the problem lies”.
Inuwa reiterated that unless the shipping companies get holding bay where they will stock their empty containers, the gridlock in and around will persist and things may even get out of hand.
What even worsens the problem according to Inuwa is what he called faulty call up system by the port operators. He pointed out that there are over four different call-up systems currently, which makes the system to be abnormal. He pointed that the security operatives have hidden under the abnormal situation to extort truckers and those who refuse to cooperate are maltreated.
The NARTO Vice Chairman also said there is level of insincerity on the part of the Nigerian Port Authority as far as the call up system and all the anomalies in the maritime trucking is concern. He said “we have taken serious steps to meet with NPA but all we have been getting is empty promises”.
Although, the issue of extortion has been a recurring complain of the truckers transacting business at the port, Inuwa said his truck normally spend between N100, 000 to N120, 000 from Mile 2 to the port and if a truck decides to be on the dedicated lane, such truck will spend between four and five weeks from mile before it will access the port and as well pay between N50, 000 to N55, 000.
As a matter of fact, some shipping companies claim to have holding bay, Inuwa disclosed that those shipping companies are only on third party arrangement as against having their personal holding bay.
The challenge of container holding bay in the maritime sector according to Folake George, president Corporate Fleet truck Owners association is worrisome and requires urgent attention and unless something drastic is done about it, it can lockdown the nation’s economy.
Although solution to the problem is still out of sight, George said “if we are serious as a country, from the top, that is; from the leaders down to the followers, we should be able to solve the problem. Government should be up and doing and take the problem with the seriousness it requires. Government should fix the roads so that people will not take road as an excuse”.
George said the nonchalant attitude of the government made the situation to be degenerated, such that truckers now charge as much as N160, 000 from Apapa to Eric Moore in Surulere, a distance that truckers usually charge N50, 000 before.
George lamented that the government has been insensitive to the problem and unfair to truckers in Apapa by not mandating the shipping companies to own holding bay; a situation that has made an empty container to spend five weeks on their trucks on the queue.
“The shipping companies are supposed to be paying us for turning our trucks to holding bay for their containers. Their empty containers now spend several weeks on our trucks because there is no place to drop the empty container. Unfortunately, truck cannot do another job unless it drops the empty container on it. This why I want to urge the government to as a matter of urgency step into the matter.